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Pennsylvania veterans still struggle with mental health, homelessness

By Anthony Hennen | The Center Square (The Center Square) – Recent federal legislation has expanded health care benefits for veterans, but suicide and homelessness still remain issues of concern in Pennsylvania. The Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act, as The Center Square previously reported, expands and extends eligibility for health care through Veterans Affairs health centers. …

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Drugmaker agrees to $2.37 billion opiate settlement

By Bruce Walker | The Center Square (The Center Square) – Allergan has agreed in principle to a proposed $2.37 billion settlement to participating states and local governments, including Iowa. Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller and a bipartisan group of attorneys general announced the settlement Friday. The news comes the same week as a $4.25 billion …

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Pennsylvania county, second-oldest and smallest, a ‘hidden gem’ weathering the pandemic

By Anthony Hennen | The Center Square (The Center Square) – Recent data from the Census Bureau shows that Pennsylvania’s median age, 40.9, is higher than the national average of 38.8.  A higher median age doesn’t mean a state will struggle to grow economically or in population – Florida and New Hampshire are older yet growing – but it can …

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Pennsylvania Legislature sends $1M to address hunger at higher education institutions

By Joe Mueller | The Center Square (The Center Square) – The Pennsylvania Legislature is sending $1 million to college campuses for the upcoming school year to address student food insecurity at institutions of higher learning. The Hunger-Free Campus Grant Program will help colleges and universities create or expand campus food pantries and increase awareness of …

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Where’s the Pennsylvania worker? In retirement or living out-of-state

By Anthony Hennen | The Center Square (The Center Square) – Though pandemic restrictions have faded away, Pennsylvania’s economy is yet to bounce back. The commonwealth has lost 120,000 workers since 2019, according to a new report from the Independent Fiscal Office, and its 4.6% unemployment rate is higher than the national rate of 3.6%. The report, “Where Did …

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More oversight for Pennsylvania nursing home staffing agencies in the pipeline

By Anthony Hennen | The Center Square (The Center Square) – Health care service agencies, which supply nursing homes and others with temporary staff, could deal with more oversight and regulation if a bill continues to advance in the Pennsylvania General Assembly. Price ceilings that would have capped what staffing agencies could charge, however, were removed …

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Pennsylvania Senate bill would give voters say in abortion, voter ID

By Anthony Hennen | The Center Square (The Center Square) – A late-night Republican push for a constitutional amendment declaring no right to an abortion has caused controversy. The resolution would also change elections to require voter ID, raise the voting age to 21, and allow gubernatorial candidates to pick their running mate for lieutenant governor, …

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Philadelphia’s Jim Kenney: ‘I’ll be happy when I’m not mayor’

By Anthony Hennen | The Center Square (The Center Square) – A moment of frustration for Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney has led to two city councilmen to call for his resignation. Kenney’s comments came after a shooting incident where two police officers were injured during the city’s Fourth of July celebration on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. …

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Across Pennsylvania, police funding and more health services unite parties

By Anthony Hennen | The Center Square (The Center Square) – As murders have risen in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh and public safety has garnered more political attention, Pennsylvania Democrats and Republicans have suggested different solutions, some big and some small. On public safety funding, however, both parties are aligned, at least for some level of increase. …

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Pennsylvania can’t control inflation, but it can reform its tax, subsidy system

By Anthony Hennen | The Center Square (The Center Square) – Pennsylvania’s high taxes and spending, and its use of business subsidies, came under fire from tax experts and business leaders in a committee hearing on Tuesday. The Republican Policy Committee held its fourth hearing related to inflation, economic growth, and the problems facing the commonwealth; …

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Pennsylvania’s difficult shift for funding roads

By Anthony Hennen | The Center Square (The Center Square) – Pennsylvania has the highest state gas tax in America, but gas taxes can’t cover its infrastructure needs in the coming years, which will require some package of policy changes. A new research brief from the state’s Independent Fiscal Office noted that the average state gas tax burden …

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For some Pennsylvania colleges, funding may get tied to education outcomes 

By Anthony Hennen | The Center Square (The Center Square) – While one of Pennsylvania’s higher education systems has undergone major changes, another could see a funding shift that emphasizes results over routine increases. A new bill, HB2619, would award 3% to 10% of state funding for state-related universities based on graduation and retention rates, post-graduation employment …

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IRS Data: Pennsylvania keeps losing population and wealth

By Anthony Hennen | The Center Square (The Center Square) – Recently released IRS data confirmed some bad news for Pennsylvania: Its residents keep leaving for greener pastures elsewhere, threatening the future of the state’s civic bonds and economic growth. Put bluntly, Pennsylvania’s population future is bleak. While states like Florida, Texas, Arizona and the Carolinas …

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Teacher shortage: Pennsylvania bill eases access for out-of-state teachers into classrooms

By Anthony Hennen (The Center Square) – Pennsylvania’s teacher shortage is spurring action in the General Assembly to pass reforms and simplify its certification process for educators. A proposed bill, SB224, would assist out-of-state teachers’ certification to teach in Pennsylvania. So long as a teacher completed a state-approved teaching program elsewhere, they would be eligible for …

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Hidden pension management fees – hundreds of millions of Pennsylvania dollars – could become public

By Anthony Hennen (The Center Square) – Public pensions in Pennsylvania have a transparency problem. Though the public retirement systems pay performance-based fees to investment managers, these fees aren’t reported or publicly available.  Their costs, however, can be quite high. Pennsylvania’s public pensions have some of the lowest funding ratios in the country; the more …

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Pennsylvania county demolition funds for blighted properties: a rural and urban divide

By Anthony Hennen Blighted properties are a problem in every county across Pennsylvania, and a proposed bill would make permanent a new fee counties can impose to raise funds for demolition. SB439, sponsored by Sen. David Argall, R-Berks/Schuylkill, would remove a 10-year sunset provision from Act 152 of 2016 that authorizes counties to create a …

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Pennsylvania tax revenues stronger than anticipated, $580 million above estimates

By Anthony Hennen Pennsylvania’s tax receipts were strong for March 2022, with the Independent Fiscal Office revising its projections up by $580 million from its August estimate. Sales taxes, personal income taxes, and corporate net income taxes drove the rise, indicating that the economy is recovering from pandemic-related slowdowns. The labor force participation rate and …

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Bill would give Pennsylvania voters power to reject any new taxes

By Anthony Hennen A proposed bill could mean more ballot referenda in Pennsylvania to prevent controversial tax increases, and also make it harder for localities or the General Assembly to boost tax revenues. Rep. David Rowe, R-Union/Snyder, introduced HB2432 to amend the Commonwealth’s constitution to add ballot questions during primary elections that would allow voters to override …

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New local taxes for public transit may be on the way for some Pennsylvania counties

By Anthony Hennen Public transportation funding has been a growing concern in some cities, and a proposed bill could give some Pennsylvania counties the authority to levy local taxes to support their transit systems. Rep. Tim Hennessey, R-Chester/Montgomery, introduced HB2366 to grant Allegheny, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties the ability to levy taxes “​​for transit …

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New report argues it’s time for public-sector union reform in Pennsylvania

By Anthony Hennen A new report from the Commonwealth Foundation argues that Pennsylvania can increase economic growth and give workers more choice and freedom in their life – if the General Assembly reforms its government union like Wisconsin did a decade ago. “Government unions have enormous political power in Pennsylvania, due to a host of special legal privileges …

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Pennsylvania universities ask for more funds, talk up keeping tuition low

By Anthony Hennen College costs and student debt remain high, and the Senate Appropriations Committee’s hearing with the leaders of Pennsylvania’s state-related universities was about how the General Assembly can help schools, rather than why its leaders aren’t doing more. While leaders of Penn State, Temple, Pitt, and Lincoln universities noted more funding from the …

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Pennsylvania parks a major source of revenue – for recreation and natural gas

By Anthony Hennen Pennsylvania’s state parks and game lands boost the state’s economy, livability, and attraction for future generations, top officials from the Department of Conservation & Natural Resources said. Testifying in front of the Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday, Senators focused on the economic potential of state parks and developing natural gas to provide …

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Pennsylvania Legislature plans divestment from Russia

Writen by Anthony Hennen The Pennsylvania General Assembly is preparing to divest the Commonwealth’s connections to the Russian economy in response to the country’s invasion of Ukraine.  “I will work with my colleagues in the state government to stop supporting anything that helps Russia,” Sen. Sharif Street, D-Philadelphia, said at a protest outside Philadelphia City …

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Staffing Pennsylvania prisons remains problematic

By Anthony Hennen | The Center Square (The Center Square) — The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections continues to deal with worker shortages as the effects of COVID-19 have changed how prisons in the commonwealth operate. A Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on Thursday heard testimony from the heads of the Department of Corrections and Board of …

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Inflation, workforce issues dominate Pennsylvania House budget hearing

(The Center Square) – Officials with the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development discussed inflation and staffing challenges, as well as the Wolf administration’s decisions to close businesses amid the COVID-19 pandemic, during a third day of budget hearings in the House Appropriations Committee. State Rep. Lynda Culver, R-Northumberland, highlighted record inflation numbers from …

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Report: School-choice demand shows why Pennsylvania lawmakers should expand programs

(The Center Square) – A new report is highlighting the record high demand for Pennsylvania’s school-choice programs as evidence lawmakers in Harrisburg should consider better ways of expanding access for families. The Commonwealth Foundation report looks at enrollment figures gleaned from public right-to-know requests for Pennsylvania’s Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) and Opportunity Scholarship Tax …

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Department of Justice flags Pennsylvania courts for opioid use disorder discrimination

(The Center Square) – The U.S. Department of Justice is ordering the Pennsylvania court system to change how it deals with individuals prescribed medication for opioid use disorder after finding courts in multiple counties violated the American with Disabilities Act. An investigation by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division found Courts of Common Pleas in …

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Pennsylvania lawmakers host first hearing on legalizing recreational marijuana

(The Center Square) – The Pennsylvania Senate Law and Justice Committee’s first hearing on legalizing recreational marijuana featured testimony from state and local officials, law enforcement officers and security officials in the commonwealth’s medical marijuana industry. Committee Chair Mike Regan, R-Dillsburg, highlighted the shift away from prosecuting minor marijuana possession crimes in recent years and …

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Pennsylvania Supreme Court takes over congressional redistricting process

By Victor Skinner (The Center Square) The Pennsylvania Supreme Court granted an emergency application to take over the commonwealth’s congressional redistricting process, though the Commonwealth Court judge overseeing the case will remain as a special master. The Supreme Court’s order granting emergency application for extraordinary relief lays out the process and timeline the high court …

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Wolf sides with local governments in rejecting gun rights bill

(The Center Square) – Gov. Tom Wolf has vetoed legislation designed to protect Pennsylvania residents’ Second Amendment rights against municipalities that enact restrictive gun ordinances. “Once again, this governor has failed to live up to his oath to ‘support, obey and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of this Commonwealth,” said …

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Revised economic forecast shows higher revenue estimate for Pennsylvania

(The Center Square) – Pennsylvania’s Independent Fiscal Office (IFO) released an updated economic forecast for fiscal year 2021-22 that shows higher than anticipated revenue, driven by stronger wages and inflation. The IFO’s mid-year update for fiscal year 2021-22 showed general fund revenues were adjusted upward from nearly $42 billion to $45.3 billion, accounting for a …

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Pittsburgh bridge collapse shines light on Pennsylvania’s infrastructure

(The Center Square) – As President Joe Biden highlights billions of dollars in federal funding to improve roads and bridges, an early Friday morning bridge collapse near Pittsburgh is highlighting the commonwealth’s infrastructure needs. Ahead of Biden’s visit to Pittsburgh on Friday, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg stood alongside Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and …

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Lawmaker proposes school choice for Pennsylvania students in poor-performing districts

(The Center Square) – A Pennsylvania state senator is proposing a new school-choice program for students who live in the commonwealth’s poorest-performing public school districts. Sen. Judy Ward, R-Hollidaysburg, penned a memorandum to her colleague, soliciting co-sponsors for legislation to create new Lifeline Scholarships for students struggling in the commonwealth’s lowest-achieving school districts. “Under this …

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Bill to increase caps on school-choice tax credit programs clears Pennsylvania Senate committee

By Victor Skinner | The Center Square contributor (The Center Square) – The Pennsylvania Senate Education Committee advanced legislation Wednesday to automatically expand school-choice programs during times of high demand. Sen. Mike Regan, R-Dillsburg, pointed to his experiences with troubled youth during his law enforcement career and the attitude of disregard for education in some …

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Pennsylvania Senate Republicans score court victory in elections investigation

By Victor Skinner | The Center Square contributor A Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court has denied a request by legislative Democrats and Attorney General Josh Shapiro to block the release of voters’ information to the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee investigating the 2020 general election and 2021 primary. The Senate committee subpoenaed the Pennsylvania Department of State in …

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Federal medical personnel headed to York, Scranton to fight COVID-19

By Victor Skinner (The Center Square) The Federal Emergency Management Agency is deploying dozens of military medical personnel to two Pennsylvania hospitals next week after a request for help to fight the current COVID-19 surge. Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration requested assistance from FEMA on Dec. 15 to support hospital staff and alleviate pressure from a …

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Pennsylvania’s highways rank near bottom of U.S.

By Victor Skinner (The Center Square) Pennsylvania’s highway system is among the worst in the nation, ranking 39th out of 50 states in the Reason Foundation’s Annual Highway Report. The annual report examines the cost-effectiveness and condition of each state’s highway system using 13 categories: total disbursements per mile, capital and bridge disbursements per mile, …

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Wolf signs legislation to reduce elderly prescription drug costs and expand broadband infrastructure

By Victor Skinner (The Center Square) Gov. Tom Wolf signed nine bills into law this week, including legislation to reduce prescription drug costs for the elderly, expand broadband infrastructure, and allow virtual public meetings and instruction. Wolf signed House bills 291, 1255, 1260, 1837, and 2071, as well as Senate bills 208, 772, 729 and …

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Gov. Wolf signs legislation to address the state’s substitute teacher crisis

By Victor Skinner, The Center Square House Bill 412, sponsored by Rep. Barb Gleim, R-Cumberland, is designed to help alleviate the statewide shortage of substitute teachers by giving schools flexibility to fill positions with retired, inactive or student teachers. “The declining number of teacher certificates issued in Pennsylvania, plus the strain of bringing back students …

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Pennsylvania gun bills facing certain veto

(By Christen Smith – The Center Square) – Republican Pennsylvania senators approved two gun bills this week that Gov. Tom Wolf already has promised to veto. Senate Bill 448 adds to an existing preemption statute by prohibiting municipalities, of which more than 2,500 exist in Pennsylvania, from enacting firearm ordinances that contradict state law. Senate …

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Wolf establishes Pennsylvania Office of Environmental Justice

(By Christen Smith – The Center Square) – Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf signed an executive order establishing a permanent Office of Environmental Justice as yet another piece of his administration’s climate strategy. “We must do the hard work to prevent further climate damage, to mitigate environmental pollution and the unfair harm it causes to vulnerable communities, …

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Pennsylvania’s election audit on hold amid lawsuit

(By Christen Smith – The Center Square) – Pennsylvania’s election audit remains on hold this week as Senate Republicans defend their subpoena for voter records that Democrats contested in Commonwealth Court as unconstitutional.  “Our filing on Friday is scheduled as part of an expedited review petition to the court that is designed to resolve the …

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Pennsylvania college system asks for ‘historic’ funding increase

(By Christen Smith – The Center Square) – The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education will ask the Legislature for $550 million in funding next year as it continues its massive redesign amid dwindling enrollment. PASSHE Board of Governors Chairwoman Cynthia Shapira said Thursday the request is vital the organization’s “future and mission.” “It reflects …

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Pennsylvania college system asks for ‘historic’ funding increase

(By Christen Smith – The Center Square) – The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education will ask the Legislature for $550 million in funding next year as it continues its massive redesign amid dwindling enrollment. PASSHE Board of Governors Chairwoman Cynthia Shapira said Thursday the request is vital the organization’s “future and mission.” “It reflects …

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Pennsylvania AG to formally announce gubernatorial bid on Wednesday, according to report

(By Christen Smith – The Center Square) – Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro will formally announce his candidacy for governor on Wednesday, according to a report from The Associated Press. It’s news that’s been months in the making after Shapiro, a former congressional staffer, state representative and Montgomery County commissioner turned two-term attorney general, said …

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Pennsylvania House approves voucher expansion for economically disadvantaged schools

(By Christen Smith – The Center Square) – House lawmakers passed a measure Tuesday that expands the size and scope of tuition vouchers for Pennsylvania’s economically disadvantaged schools.  Three Democrats joined all of the chamber’s Republicans in approving House Bill 1642, which lowers the threshold for schools to qualify as economically disadvantaged under the law. …

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Pennsylvania lawmakers pass six month extension on regulatory waivers

(By Christen Smith – The Center Square) – The Pennsylvania General Assembly passed a six-month extension for hundreds of regulatory waivers while lawmakers consider a more permanent fix. House Bill 1861, which addresses up to 500 suspended regulations, heads to Gov. Tom Wolf’s desk after both chambers unanimously approved the measure Wednesday. Prime sponsor Rep. …

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Pennsylvania not immune to national school bus driver shortage

(By Christen Smith – The Center Square) – State officials took an unusual step Thursday and reached out to more 375,000 commercially licensed drivers in hopes of covering a growing school bus driver shortage. Kurt Myers, deputy secretary for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), told reporters the pool of qualified bus drivers has shrunk …

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Lawsuit filed against Pennsylvania school mask mandate

(By Christen Smith – The Center Square) – Less than a week after the Department of Health ordered universal masking in Pennsylvania schools, Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration faces its first legal challenge on what many critics consider a shameful last-minute policy reversal. Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, R-Bellefonte, leads a group of parents and …

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Bipartisan election reform bill brewing in Pennsylvania Senate

(By Christen Smith – The Center Square) – A second election reform bill appears likely in Pennsylvania this year. The chairs of the State Government Committee began circulating a cosponsorship memo earlier this month for their joint plan, which allows for a three day pre-canvassing rule, continuous video surveillance of ballot drop boxes, tightened application deadlines …

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Most Pennsylvania counties shrank, Census data finds

(By Kristen Smith – The Center Square) – Most of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties saw population declines over the past decade, with a few exceptions near Harrisburg, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. The news comes from the latest U.S. Census data released Thursday, which reported Pennsylvania’s total residents exceeded 13 million in 2020, leaping over Illinois to become the fifth …

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Pennsylvania hospitality trade group sponsors vaccine clinics

(By Christen Smith | The Center Square) – As the COVID-19 delta variant spikes cases nationwide, one Pennsylvania hospitality trade group signed onto the immunization effort as the state trails its 70% statewide goal. “Remember the shutdowns, the massive layoffs, and business closures? The hospitality industry is starting a slow recovery process and PA Restaurant …

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Pennsylvania activists protest Biden’s ‘wasteful’ infrastructure plan as he rallies across the street

(By Christen Smith | The Center Square) – Activists with Americans for Prosperity stood across the street from the Macks Trucks plant in Lehigh County where President Joe Biden stumped his multi-trillion infrastructure proposal on Wednesday to protest the “wasteful” spending it contains. “When most folks think of AFP and our activists, they think of …

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Scranton mayor presses Congress to naturalize undocumented immigrants through budget reconciliation

(By Christen Smith | The Center Square) – Scranton Mayor Paige Cognetti said this week Congress should use budget reconciliation to naturalize millions of undocumented immigrants as recognition for their sacrifices during the COVID-19 pandemic. “We already needed to deliver pathways to citizenship as nation, even before the pandemic,” she said during a call with …

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Study: Public employees make up 11.7% of the Pennsylvania workforce, 2nd lowest in U.S.

(By The Center Square) The share of the Pennsylvania workforce employed by local, state or federal governments was 11.7 percent prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the second lowest percentage among the 50 states, according to a new study from the website 24/7 Wall St. The public-sector workers in Pennsylvania numbered 622,046, based on 2019 data compiled …

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Pennsylvania raises medical assistance income cap

(By Christen Smith | The Center Square) – Workers with disabilities in Pennsylvania can now earn up to $61,000 annually before losing access to some of their medical assistance benefits. Act 69 became law on July 1 and nearly doubles the $32,000 income cap for the program in an attempt to address widespread unemployment and underemployment …

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Over Republican objections, key panel endorses Pennsylvania’s entry into carbon reduction program

(By Christen Smith | The Center Square) – A key panel endorsed Pennsylvania’s entry into a carbon emissions reduction program scheduled for early next year, brushing aside concerns from Republican lawmakers that the move would accomplish little other than hurting the state’s economy. The Environmental Quality Board voted 15-4 on Tuesday to adopt the Department …

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Republicans in Pennsylvania will crowdsource new congressional map drawings

(By Christen Smith | The Center Square) – Republican lawmakers said Monday they will crowdsource opinions about how best to redraw Pennsylvania’s congressional district map this fall. House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, R-Bellefonte, told reporters at a news conference in Bucks County that redistricting is “one of the most important processes the legislature will undertake” …

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Forensic election audit initiated in Pennsylvania; AG vows to strike back

(By Christen Smith | The Center Square) – A Republican senator in Pennsylvania initiated the first steps this week of a forensic election audit, even as the state’s top law enforcement official promised intervention should the effort continue. Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Gettysburg, said in an editorial Wednesday he’s requested information and materials from three counties needed for …

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Senate approves Pittman’s bills to modernize legislation for physician assistants working in Pennsylvania

(By Natalie Kapustik | The Center Square) – State Sen. Joe Pittman has introduced legislation to support the work and practice of physician assistants in Pennsylvania. Senate Bill 397 amends the Osteopathic Medical Practice Act and Senate Bill 398 amends the Medical Practice Act of 1985. He said modernizing these bills will encourage more physician …

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May unemployment rate in Pennsylvania dips to 6.9%

(By Christen Smith | The Center Square) – Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate dropped to 6.9% in May, according to the Department of Labor and Industry.  The state released the updated data Friday. It showed Pennsylvania’s jobless numbers still outpace the national unemployment rate of 5.8%.  Total nonfarm jobs increased by 18,500 month over month, while the …

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Legislation to create Agricultural Conservation Assistance Program advances in Pennsylvania Senate

(By Natalie Kapustik | The Center Square) – Legislation sponsored by Pennsylvania state Sen. Gene Yaw to create an Agricultural Conservation Assistance Program was unanimously approved recently by the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee. Senate Bill 465 would provide additional technical support to expand on-farm conservation practices throughout Pennsylvania. Farmers and landowners would partner …

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Lawmakers renew effort to halt carbon emissions caps in Pennsylvania

(By Christen Smith | The Center Square) – A Pennsylvania House committee approved a bill Tuesday that would interrupt the state’s plan to limit carbon emissions from Pennsylvania’s power sector starting early next year. This, after Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed an identical measure in September that would have halted the Department of Environmental Protection’s regulatory …

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Bill to create grant program to revitalize hospitality and tourism industry

(By Natalie Kapustik | The Center Square) – A group of Pennsylvania lawmakers have partnered with the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association to introduce legislation that would create a grant program for hospitality and tourism businesses struggling to recover from COVID-19 shutdown orders. House Bill 1487 is sponsored by Reps. Todd Polinchock, KC Tomlinson, Meghan …

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